Dallas Cowboys

A look at the Cowboys’ free agents

The Cowboys would like to bring back physical linebacker Rolando McClain, but they won’t get into a bidding war for his services.
The Cowboys would like to bring back physical linebacker Rolando McClain, but they won’t get into a bidding war for his services. Special to S-T

The NFL set the salary cap at $143.28 million. But because of carryovers and adjustments from last year, the Dallas Cowboys will have a cap of $148.5, per NFL Players Association records. Free agency officially begins Tuesday. The Cowboys have roughly $2 million in cap room after Dez Bryant’s $12.8 franchise tag and deals with Cole Beasley and Doug Free. They still have other prospective tenders to the restricted free agents and need money to sign draft picks. Here’s a look at the Cowboys’ free agents:

Unrestricted free agents

LB James Anderson was signed for depth purposes because of injuries. Will not be brought back.

WR Dez Bryant had the franchise tag placed on him. The Cowboys will still try to work on a long-term deal. Bryant will be on the team one way or another in 2015.

LB Bruce Carter is a long shot to return. He probably needs a fresh start after being a disappointment the past two seasons in Dallas.

FB Tyler Clutts was a big part of the successful running game in 2014 and was key on special teams. Should not cost a lot to return.

LB Justin Durant is coveted for his versatility. He can play all three linebacker spots. He will be insurance for Rolando McClain.

RT Doug Free will return after signing a three-year, $15 million deal Saturday, keeping the starting offensive intact.

WR Dwayne Harris is a valuable special teams performer, as returner and in coverage. He might be looking for a bigger role in the offense than he is getting in Dallas.

DT Nick Hayden has been an average starter at best the past two seasons. He will be a low priority. The Cowboys are looking for upgrades.

OT Tony Hills was signed late in the season for depth purposes. He could return if the Cowboys lose Parnell. Hills competes for the swing tackle role.

LB Rolando McClain brought toughness and physicality to the defense. The Cowboys want him back. Concerns remain and they will not get in a bidding war.

DT Henry Melton had his contract voided after a disappointing season. The Cowboys didn’t like his competitive fire. He is finally healthy and will go elsewhere to continue his career.

RB DeMarco Murray hits the market and will test his value after a record-setting season. The Cowboys want him back, but will not break the bank for a running back.

OT Jermey Parnell likely will be headed out of town after Free’s signing. He was solid in place of Free at the end of last season and could earn a starting job elsewhere.

DE George Selvie came back to earth after a strong 2013 season. He was average at best in 2014. The Cowboys are looking to upgrade the position. He will have options on the market.

DE Anthony Spencer was solid late in the season as he got healthier from microfracture surgery. How much does he have left and at what cost?

S C.J. Spillman was one of the team’s better special teams players and also got decent reps at safety. He will not be a priority early in free agency.

Restricted free agents

WR Cole Beasley got a four-year contract extension worth $13.7 million, including $7 million guaranteed. Also got a $4 million signing bonus.

RB Lance Dunbar did not live up to expectations last year. He didn’t do enough to warrant the restricted tender. The Cowboys will try to sign him to a minimum deal.

P Chris Jones did a decent job the last couple of seasons, but is not likely to get the restricted tender. He could sign a lesser deal to return.

CB Sterling Moore played solidly as the third cornerback in place of the injured Mo Claiborne. The Cowboys are thin at cornerback and need some insurance at the position.

Exclusive rights free agents

LB Cam Lawrence signed a one-year tender to return in 2015. One of the team’s best special teams performers.

LG Ron Leary signed a one-year tender to return n 2015. Two-year starter at left guard. Solid, but not special. Needs work as a pass blocker.

OT Darrion Weems signed a one-year tender to return. Could compete for the swing tackle role in 2015.

Types of free agents

An unrestricted free agent is a player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any team, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old team.

A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. He can sign a qualifying offer with any team, but his original team can match the offer. If the original team doesn’t match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team.

An exclusive rights free agent is a player with three or fewer accrued seasons. His original team must make a contract offer or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing an exclusive rights free agent.

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